By Julia Ordaz
Kayla Unbehaun, then 9, and her mother went for a camping trip six years ago and never returned. Heather Unbehaun had been allowed to have unsupervised visitation rights with her daughter, after Kayla’s father won full custody of Kayla in early 2017. On July 5, 2017 Ryan Iskerka went to pick up his daughter from one of these visits and found that the pair had gone missing. On May 13, six years later, Kayla was found alive.
Iskerka filed a missing persons report and Illinois prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Unbehaun. According to the Go Fund Me page that Iskerka created, the pair had last been seen at a Fourth of July parade in Wheaton, Illinois. The page also noted that, “It was discovered that all of Heather’s social media had been canceled and her phone turned off.”
Despite the kidnapping warrant, 40-year-old Unbehaun managed to stay hidden. Asheville Police Lt. Jonathan Brown stated, “What’s most unusual is the ability to stay off the grid, if you will, for that period of time. Typically we leave a technological bread crumb and those are usually very easy and quick to be tracked down. This was not.”
In November 2022 Kayla’s disappearance was featured on Netflix’s Unsolved Mysteries, a TV series that uses “reenactments and interviews” to cover stories of “crime, tales of lost love, unexplained history, and paranormal events.” It was a viewer of the series that identified the now 15 year-old Kayla from her childhood picture. The woman notified an employee at the shop in Asheville, North Carolina who then alerted the police.
According to NBC Chicago, Kayla is currently in the custody of the North Carolina Division of Social Services but is expected to be reunited with Iskerka soon. “I’m overjoyed that Kayla is home safe. I want to thank the South Elgin Police Department, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and all of the law enforcement agencies who assisted with her case,” Iskerka said on Monday, May 15. He continued, “We ask for privacy as we get to know each other again and navigate this new beginning.”
Heather Unbehaun was released on bond of $250,000 and has a court date set for July 11, 2023. Unbehaun will be extradited to Illinois for the trial.